Amsterdam-based 3D printing service 3D Hubs often hears the question, “Which 3D printer should I buy?” The company is certainly the right one to ask, given that it works hard to connect 3D printer users with the proper technology for their projects, and also conducts research throughout the year so its users will have helpful data compiled in one place to help them decide which 3D printer they should be using or buying. Released today, the 3D Hubs 2018 3D Printer Guide is now in its fourth year of existence, and is the most comprehensive edition yet, showcasing what 3D printer users say are the most highly rated machines on the market.
“It’s been great to see so many machines performing so highly in this year’s guide, it’s a real testament to the industry that a large portion of users are having their needs met,” George Fisher-Wilson, 3D Hubs Communications Manager, told 3DPrint.com.
“Even with some of the machines in the guide for a third or fourth year, it really shows a well-engineered machine will continue to impress. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and the teams behind the printers. And of course one final thank you to our community for helping to create the guide and their continued contribution to the community as a whole by taking the time to give their feedback to others.”
According to 3D Hubs, the average rating of the winning desktop machines has gone up, as desktop 3D printers become ever more professional and reliable. 668 different 3D printer models were reviewed for the guide this year, which is based on 10,154 reviews from verified 3D printer owners – over 1,500 more than last year’s 3D Printer Guide, making this the most extensive guide yet. Other criteria that comprise the 2018 edition include:
- 6,353 years of 3D printing experience
- Over 1.48 million 3D prints
The following parameters were investigated by the greater 3D Hubs community to help rank the 3D printers:
- Print and build quality
- Reliability and ease of use
- Print failure rate
- Customer service and community
- Running cost and value
The guide this year includes 14 3D printer models, judged on a scale from 1-10, in five individual 3D printer categories, starting with Prosumer.
The advanced desktop 3D printers in this category are for professionals that need exceptional build quality. Because the target market for this category has different needs, more of an emphasis has been placed on print quality and reliability than on ease of use. For the second year running, Ultimaker topped the list, as its Ultimaker 3 Extended tied for first place with a 9.2 rating. The UM3 has been completely overhauled since its Ultimaker 2+ predecessor, offering dual extrusion with soluble support, auto-bed leveling, and WiFi connectivity. It also has an extra 10 cm of build height, as opposed to the Ultimaker 3, and was given the Individual Attribute award of “Best Customer Service” in the 3D Hubs guide.
As one UM3 user put it to 3D Hubs, “If you desire to design, click & print with ease, the Ultimaker 3 is for you.”
California-based Raise3D made its 3D Printer Guide debut this year with its N2, which tied the UM3 for an overall 9.2 rating in the Prosumer category. 100% of the users who reviewed the N2 recommended it to others, thanks to its fully enclosed design, all-metal hot end, and excellent build quality. It also won the “Highest Print Quality” Individual Attribute award in the guide.
Two other options were listed in this year’s Prosumer category:
Form 2 – Down a little in the ratings from a 9.0 last year to an 8.8 this year, the desktop SLA Form 2 offers users extremely accurate prints and is easy to use, but lists build volume and price as cons.
Markforged Mark 2 – This is the company’s first time making the 3D Hubs guide, and the innovative Mark 2, rated an 8.8 and good for creating functional engineering parts and prototypes with a short lead time, takes home three Individual Attribute awards – Most Reliable Machine, Lowest Print Failure, and Highest Build Quality.
We’re moving right along to the Workhorse 3D printer category now, for users who require 3D printers that can work nonstop with minimal failure. The open source Original Prusa i3 MK2S, previously listed in the Budget category, has hit a major milestone this year – it’s now the highest rated 3D printer, with an astounding 9.3, in the history of the 3D Hubs guide; it was also awarded Highest Rated Software and Best Community.
The MK2S has a slightly larger build volume than other desktop 3D printers, at 250 x 210 x 200 mm, and comes with the MK42 heated bed, which heats up and cools down quickly and features great adhesion. One complaint that 3D Hubs heard about the MK2S last year was its noise level, which Prusa took care of with newly introduced bearings and rods that run more quietly.
“With the MK3 now released it’ll be interesting to see the adoption of the machine and if it begins to make an appearance in our quarterly trend report,” 3D Hubs commented.
The Workhorse category, with one less 3D printer listed than last year’s guide, continues with the precise and reliable MakerGear M2, which was given a 9.1 rating and has been featured in the annual guide for four years now. Users are able to make adjustments to the 3D printer thanks to its open source electronics and firmware, and one reviewer noted that once the M2’s bed has been leveled, “it stays level which is critical to printing.”
The third 3D printer listed in this category is the LulzBot TAZ 6, which pleased reviewers with its automatic bed leveling functionality. The 3D printer received a high rating of 9.0, though its $2,500 price tag was listed as one of the cons. But, as one reviewer noted, you get what you pay for:
“I have owned my LulzBot TAZ 6 for over a year, printing through over 50 rolls of filament and it still prints amazing. The price is higher than some but you do get a well-built machine with great customer service, a huge print volume and a lot of options. If you have the funds, this printer should be on your list.”
The 3D printers listed in the budget category, while less expensive (i.e., fewer bells and whistles) than others, certainly don’t scrimp when it comes to good print quality. Additionally, they are supported by strong communities and allow users to make their own adjustments and modifications. The 3D printers in this category each cost less than $1,000, though the Rostock MAX V3 just barely squeaks in with a price of $999. The Delta style 3D printer was given an 8.7 rating, and offers a large print volume and great customer service; in addition, there are many upgrade kits available on the market for this 3D printer.
“The drawbacks of the delta printer design is the calibration time,” 3D Hubs explained. “A lot of users that bought the printer as a kit, reported that calibration can be cumbersome, but also noted that this process was an excellent learning experience and helped them understand their printer better.”
Other 3D printers in this category include:
Creality CR-10 – This is the company’s first time making the 3D Hubs guide, and its CR-10 3D printer was awarded Best Value for Money – easy to see why with a price of less than $500 and a large build volume of 300 x 300 x 400 mm. The CR-10, rated an 8.6, is sold as a kit, with minimal assembly required, and it has a large community of users who are happy to share their set-up, upgrade, and troubleshooting tips.
Monoprice MP Select Mini – Monoprice is also making its debut in the guide this year with its MP Select Mini, which was also rated an 8.6. The 3D printer costs less than $230 and arrives fully assembled, as it’s calibrated at the factory before being sent out. The entry-level 3D printer also comes equipped with WiFi, which is usually reserved for higher-end machines, but users dislike its small size, and the fact that it’s not open source.
The Plug ‘n’ Play 3D printer category of the guide consists of easy-to-use 3D printers that require minimal set-up and offer great customer support and print quality; however, the trade-off here is less room to tinker with and modify the machines. The top-rated Plug ‘n’ Play 3D printer is, for the second year in a row, the Craftbot PLUS, enjoying a higher rating of 9.2 thanks to its excellent, proprietary slicing software and color touchscreen.
“I have been supremely happy with the Craftbot PLUS,” one reviewer stated. “Many of the downsides of 3D printing that I researched just did not materialize with this printer. It worked out of the box with absolutely no tweaking required. Its metal body is rock solid. The CraftWare Software is among the easiest I’ve ever used.”
Other highly rated 3D printers in this guide category include:
LulzBot Mini – This 3D printer, which was dubbed the Easiest Machine to Use by 3D Hubs’ Individual Attribute awards, was rated a 9.1 and is good for beginner and intermediate users. The entry-level FDM Mini has a self-cleaning nozzle, an auto-leveling bed, and an all-metal hot end. While one reviewer lamented its need to be constantly connected to a computer, it seems the rest of the LulzBot community on 3D Hubs found a workaround to this issue in a Raspberry Pi that runs Octoprint.
FlashForge Finder – Due to its $399 price tag, this 3D printer, rated a 9.0, could be at home in the budget category, but was placed in Plug ‘n’ Play due to its ease of use, and was described by users as the “epitome of Plug ‘n’ Play.” It features an open, compact frame, which makes the build volume a little small at 140 x 140 x 140 mm, but more than makes up for this shortcoming with reliably high-quality prints.
Zortrax M200 – Formerly in the Prosumer category, the 9.0-rated M200 switched to Plug ‘n’ Play this year due to the guide’s weighting: reliability, ease of use, and print quality rank higher than support and value/cost in this category. This 3D printer’s easy calibration solidified its placement, and while users list its lack of hackability as one of its cons, M200 users said “their lack of failed prints” more than made up for this shortcoming in the end.
As for SLS 3D printers, the Formiga P110 by EOS takes the cake in the category that covers the most used industrial 3D printing technology on the 3D Hubs platform. The company reports that hundreds of industrial bureaus were surveyed before landing on the 8.3-rated P110 as the highest rated SLS 3D printer, which, according to 3D Hubs, shows that older 3D printing technology “can still give operators a great experience.”
The P110 has a respectable 200 x 250 x 330 mm build volume, and uses EOS’ well-optimized SLS technology to achieve cost-effective, low volume printing at a high quality. As this industrial 3D printer can only print with recyclable polyamide (PA) material, the color selection is a little limited, so it’s not a great choice for full-color prototypes; however, it is perfect for manufacturing parts with complex geometries and medium prototype builds.
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